Tuesday, July 8, 2014
I finally built up the courage and decided it was time to revisit my dad's favorite park. That special spot under the huge old oak tree by the edge of the lake , that he loved so much. Yes, that quiet tranquil place where he did most of his critical thinking and reflecting on life's little and big intricacies. The same spot where he would sit and feed the ducks as they came wobbling over to gather around him anxiously, in the hope for the morsels of bread dipped in honey. Where he would sit and talk to the ducks squirrels and birds. Where he would sing to them , hum and even whistle his favorite hymns. The very same spot where he sat and enjoyed his favorite chocolate covered vanilla ice-cream sugar cone that he bought from the neighborhood ice-cream truck.
I am talking about Jay Blanchard Park in Orlando Florida. You see everyone knew him as "brother Freddie." Even ranger Dave would stop occasionally by the huge old oak tree on his way to make his daily rounds through the park for some meaningful, and heartfelt conversation on the different subjects they would engage in. Subjects such as Jesus, salvation, marriage and family. As I made my way through the winding road that led to the heart of the park, I was amazed at how it all looked exactly the same way it did that week before dad went home to be with the Lord. I immediately parked my car in the lot straight across from that huge old oak tree. I just sat there in the car for a few minutes looking over at the park bench, the tree, and of course the ducks. Wow, the ducks were still here, I thought. But then I rationalized that bit of information. It's been two years since I visited the park, perhaps these are not the same family of ducks.
Dad was working on a nature album and there were all sorts of treasures he had collected on his visits to the park. He had tons of nature pictures, unusual leaves, twigs, dried wildflowers, and even seeds all in a variety of shapes and sizes. I felt an incredible sense of excitement and deep sadness, all at the same time. I sat down on the park bench and closed my eyes, hoping to recapture those easy breezy happy times with dad. I just wanted to relive and enjoy once again the distinctive smells of nature in the air that came wafting through the tree branches as the wind blew east. Then I heard crows, cawing back and forth as if greeting one another.
I don't know exactly how long I sat there like that, with my eyes closed, but suddenly I was brought back from my reverie to the familiar sounds I so very much loved to hear. There were sounds of cars and motorcycles making their way through the winding road into the park, there was children's laughter as they rang their bike bells. Parents calling out to the children to wait up for them. Somewhere in the distance I could hear the faint sound of the music to "row, row, row your boat" song, and instantly knew the ice-cream truck was headed this way. As I opened my eyes, I noticed bikers riding up and down the bike path, teenagers rollerblading, mother's pushing strollers, dogs on leashes, and even elderly couples enjoying their morning stroll. And of course, ranger Dave putt putting down the road on his way to his morning rounds through the park. As I am sitting there on the park bench, I recall the many times that dad and I would just sit there taking in the beauty and sounds that surrounded us, neither one uttering a single word. It wasn't because we had nothing to say. There was plenty to say, but you see, my dad and I had an understanding. We both loved nature, and nature was to be observed, appreciated, respected and enjoyed as the good Lord intended it. It was God's creative handiwork we were dealing with here.
Although dad has gone to his eternal resting place with our God "Elohim", God Creator, he now enjoys the most breathtaking view of beauty beyond our imagination. Exquisite cities of pure gold, rivers as clear as glass, walls made of precious jewels, gates of pearl. Heaven will be lighted not by the sun, but by the glory of God! Heavenly angels singing continuously praises to the Lord! For me remembering dad now is about the wonderful memories me built together. Reminiscing about the good times. Today, my memories are no longer full of pain and sadness, but memories I welcome wholeheartedly with peace and joy, because I know I will see him again. The Bible teaches us in Tutus 2:13, the blessed hope that just as we will recognize the Lord Jesus, we will also reunite and recognize our loved ones in heaven. What a glorious time that will be! Until then, I sit on the familiar park bench under the old oak tree feeding the ducks, squirrels, and birds talking to them and singing dad's favorite old hymns.
"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
2 Corinthians 13:14